In the face of such mass hostility, in a suffocating political climate where honorable dissent was neither welcome nor considered patriotic, it took a brave, principled human being, particularly one in a position of prominence, to publicly challenge the increasingly arrogant status quo.
When the George W. Bush administration commenced its global sales pitch to invade Iraq in 2002, misplaced fear and overly rosy projections for its success helped make it happen. If only they had heeded the prescient warnings of these nine wrongly maligned individuals, America would not be in the horrific, never ending mess it finds itself in today:
1. Eric Margolis
Mocked by his fellow columnists, Peter Worthington and Bob McDonald, in the opinion pages of The Toronto Sun, for not climbing aboard the warmongering wagon -- they falsely claimed he was "pro-Saddam" -- this New York-based foreign affairs journalist wrote a foolishly ignored editorial for the debut October 2002 edition of The American Conservative.
Some key passages:
"The Bush administration is clearly obsessed with Iraq, but it has no clear plan on what to do with this Mideast version of ex-Yugoslavia once America's military might overthrows Saddam Hussein's regime."
"Though U.S. forces could quickly defeat Iraq's regular army in the field, there is a high risk of prolonged urban guerilla warfare and great numbers of civilian casualties."
"When Saddam falls, Iraq will almost certainly splinter..."
"There is simply no political benefit for the United States in invading Iraq. On the contrary, such an act of brazen aggression would summon up a host of unforeseen dangers and unimagined consequences that could destabilize the Mideast... and Turkey, create a world economic crisis, and, perhaps, cause the aggressive Bush administration to commit an act of imperial overreach that permanently injures America's geopolitical interests and, let us not forget, its moral integrity."
By the way, Margolis was fired by The Sun in 2010. McDonald died in 2006 while Worthington passed away last year.
2. Senator Ted Kennedy
In September 2002, the longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts delivered an important speech at a Washington, D.C. educational institution. While urging the removal of politics on both sides when discussing Iraq, he made it plain where he stood:
"... the administration has not made a convincing case that we face such an imminent threat to our national security that a unilateral, preemptive American strike and an immediate war are necessary. Nor has the administration laid out the cost in blood and treasure of this operation.
"A largely unilateral American war that is widely perceived in the Muslim world as untimely or unjust could worsen not lessen the threat of terrorism...
"... a case has not been made to connect Al Qaeda and Iraq... To the contrary, there is no clear and convincing pattern of Iraqi relations with either Al Qaeda or the Taliban."
According to this Huffington Post remembrance of the senator, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2009, there was barely any mention of this speech in the American mainstream media at the time of its delivery. Truly disgraceful.
3. Then-Senator Barack Obama
As president, he hasn't exactly been a dove when it comes to American foreign policy, including Iraq itself. In fact, his position wasn't much different as a state senator in Illinois. During a famous speech on October 2, 2002, he claimed, "I don't oppose all wars." Except one:
"What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."
"I... know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors..."
"I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East..."
I miss Senator Obama.
4. Michael Moore
At the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards, the comedic documentarian/activist won the Best Documentary Feature gong for Bowling For Columbine. During his acceptance speech, he took the opportunity to forcefully criticize President Bush:
"We have a fictitious president, who was put in office with fictitious results and he's now conducting a war for fictitious reasons.
This is absolutely insane. The lesson for the children of Columbine this week is that violence is an accepted means to resolve a conflict and it's a sad, sick and immoral lesson."
The very next night, in front of a much larger TV audience, while accepting the Oscar in the same category for the same movie, he essentially said the same thing while adding, "We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you."
It drew a decidedly mixed reaction as a large number of boos competed with a few cheers to drown out his words.
Weeks later, celebrities who supported the Iraq invasion, voiced their disapproval of Moore's comments publicly. As Moore himself noted later on, when he walked off-stage, someone screamed "Asshole!" right in his ear. Years later, that same guy apologized to him personally and admitted Moore's opposition to the war was right.
I wonder if any of those pro-war celebrities did the same thing.
5. Rep. Barbara Lee
Politicians are generally a gutless bunch, so it's always a surprise when an elected official breaks from the pack on principle, especially during a national crisis. Such was the case with this California congresswoman, the only American politician to vote against The Patriot Act, in 2002.
In a statement publicly released on August 21, 2002, which you can still read on her website, Democratic Rep. Lee noted the following:
"I have been deeply worried about the expansion and escalation of military action since Congress's vote last September to grant the president such sweeping war making authority ... Now, with rising calls from members of the Bush administration and some members of Congress demanding war with Iraq and increasingly dangerous rhetoric from the President himself, those fears are becoming a reality."
"We have seen no evidence tying Iraq to the atrocities of September 11th..."
"A U.S. invasion of Iraq escalating and expanding conflict in the Middle East without constitutional authority, international support, or legal justification would represent a tragedy of immense proportions."
As a result many months later, Rep. Lee, whose view has remained unchanged in the 12 years that have followed, voted against the Iraq War authorization. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supported it. Remember that if she runs for president in 2016.
6. Senator Russ Feingold
In October 2002, the then-Senator of Wisconsin took to the floor of the Senate to make a long speech, later posted on Antiwar.com, to explain why he was opposing the Iraq invasion:
"Mr. President, the administration's arguments just don't add up..."
"... this could well represent a disturbing change in our overall foreign and military policy... such a doctrine could trigger very dangerous actions with really very minimal justification."
"...Mr. President, I am increasingly troubled by the seemingly shifting justifications for an invasion at this time... when the administration moves back and forth from one argument to another, I think it undercuts the credibility of the case and the belief in its urgency."
"An invasion of Iraq in the next few weeks or months could in fact be very counterproductive. In fact, it could risk our national security."
"... as far as I can tell, the administration apparently intends to wing it when it comes to the day after or, as others have suggested, the decade after. And I think, Mr. President, that makes no sense at all."
Eight years later, after almost two decades in the Senate, Feingold was voted out of office.
7. Rep. Ron Paul
While there were dozens of Democrats who were publicly against the Bush administration's war plans, there were even fewer Republicans who agreed with them. This outspoken Libertarian from Texas was the most outspoken one.
In late February 2002, many months before Washington would vote on authorizing the invasion, Congressman Paul wrote this excellent piece for CounterPunch.org. Among his standout comments:
"All we hear about in the biased media is the need to eliminate Saddam Hussein, with little regard for how this, in itself, might totally destabilize the entire Middle East and Central Asia... It could, in fact, make the Iraq 'problem' much worse."
"... it is rarely pointed out that the CIA has found no evidence whatsoever that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11."
"Could it be that only through war and removal of certain governments we can maintain control of the oil in this region? Could it be all about oil, and have nothing to do with US national security?"
"It is unwise because of many unforeseen consequences that are likely to result. It is immoral and unjust, because it has nothing to do with US security and because Iraq has not initiated aggression against us.
"Victory under these circumstances is always elusive, and unintended consequences are inevitable."
Eleven years later, after a couple of failed runs for president, Paul retired from political office after 16 years in the House of Representatives.
8. Al Gore
On September 23, 2002, the former vice president delivered a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco. Like his fellow Democrats, Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy, he openly opposed the idea of America invading Saddam Hussein's sovereign land, particularly without the support of the United Nations, among many other reservations:
"... I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century."
"[The Bush doctrine of preemption] means also that if the Congress approves the Iraq resolution just proposed by the administration it is simultaneously creating the precedent for preemptive action anywhere, anytime this or any future president so decides."
"President Bush now asserts that we will take preemptive action even if we take the threat we perceive is not imminent. If other nations assert the same right then the rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of fear ... An unspoken part of this new doctrine appears to be that we claim this right for ourselves -- and only for ourselves."
"What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the president of the United States."
Would Gore have felt this way if he had won the 2000 election instead of Bush? We'll never know. Regardless, twelve years after making this important speech, he looks a hell of a lot wiser than everyone in Bush's administration.
9. Pope John Paul II
There are many reasons to criticize this now-deceased Polish Pope. Opposing the Iraq invasion is not one of them.
In his annual written address released to the public in January 2003, the then-leader of the Catholic Church wrote briefly but bluntly about his views about war in general & the Iraq conflict specifically:
"'NO TO WAR'! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity."
"And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq... a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo?"
"War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations ... war cannot be decided upon... without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations."
Read more by Dennis Earl at dennisearl.wordpress.com